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Massive evacuation completed from quake center
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China has finished evacuating 111,476 people from an area near the epicenter of last month's earthquake in Sichuan Province to avoid secondary disasters triggered by heavy rains.

In Wenchuan County, 72,000 people were relocated hours before the rain started on Wednesday night.

The three-day mass relocation ended at 8 p.m., just two hours before heavy rain began to fall, said the Aba prefectural work team for disaster prevention.

"Many old people were crying as they trekked out of our home village," said 51-year-old Chen Mingfeng, a resident of Longxi Village, Wenchuan.

Chen and the elderly from her village, numbering about 400, moved out of their homes above a mountain to another village on Monday morning.

"We were ready to move at any time. You see, there are rifts on the mountain everywhere," she said.

Now Chen and her family live in a tent and get daily rice rations from the local government. Although the public kitchen is still being built, she said she was grateful for all the government had done.

Xie Xiaoquan, head of the health bureau of Aba, had to disinfect toilets in the makeshift relocation center every morning and afternoon.

"This is an important task," he said. "We won the race with disasters, and we also have to ensure the residents' health."

Wu Zegang, deputy Communist Party secretary of Aba, said the risks of floods and geological disasters such as landslides will rise in the approaching main flood season.

"The top priority of our relief work is to transfer residents whose lives are endangered by secondary disasters to safer areas," Wu said.

Emergency workers have built 2,458 temporary houses and put up 34,000 tents for displaced people.

The rest of the relocated residents are from nine counties of Aba prefecture, which governs 13 counties including Wenchuan, the epicenter of the May 12 quake.

Aba is inhabited mainly by Tibetans and people of the Qiang ethnic group.

In Wenchuan alone, 15,941 people were killed by the quake, which left 7,662 missing and 34,583 injured.

(Xinhua News Agency June 20, 2008)

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